Cancer is a growing concern among Saskatchewan’s First Nations and Métis people. Creating a cancer surveillance system and gathering first-hand information from First Nations and Métis patients about their experiences was the first step in a three-year program that ran from 2014-2017. While the program began as a surveillance initiative, the focus changed to support communities in providing information about cancer prevention and early detection for their residents.
What is a cancer surveillance system?
A cancer surveillance system is a way of continuously collecting information about the amount and types of cancers occurring in a group of people. This information can be used to plan programs and services with the goal of improving cancer control.
Why do you need a First Nations and Métis cancer surveillance system?
To improve the health of First Nations and Métis people in Saskatchewan, we need to understand how cancer specifically affects these populations. A surveillance system can provide information about the amount and types of cancers occurring in these populations. This information is needed so that we can help to improve the care and services First Nations and Métis patients receive.
What were the benefits of this program?
Gathering information about cancer, and hearing directly from First Nations and Métis cancer patients about what they want and need, can help us create culturally appropriate and safe programs, and share information together. The goal of the program was to help support improvement in the health of First Nations and Métis people, because when you have healthy First Nations and Métis communities, you have a healthy Saskatchewan community.
Who participated and what was accomplished?
Five communities participated in the initiative: English River First Nation, Ochapowace First Nation, Battle River Treaty 6 Health Centre, Île-à-la-Crosse, and Pinehouse. Each community had their own approach which included everything from an art project with youth that reflected a message for cancer patients and people in their community, to information sessions on cancer prevention and early detection.
What is different about this project?
This project broke with tradition and involved the people most directly affected—First Nations and Métis patients, their families and communities. During the course of the initiative, the focus of the program changed from surveillance to supporting communities in providing information on cancer prevention, early detection, treatment and survivorship to their residents.
Working with Community
The First Nations and Métis Cancer Surveillance Program was about hearing directly from the people in the communities and working alongside them to begin a conversation about the gaps that exist in understanding cancer. It’s a conversation that continues today with everyone learning from one another.
To hear from some of the participants watch the video of what they accomplished in their community.
This project respects the diversity of languages, traditions, protocols and ceremonies among Saskatchewan First Nations and Métis people. The ongoing relationship with First Nations and Métis people will help create outcomes that are relevant and culturally appropriate, respectful and safe.